The emergence of grocery e-shopping has revolutionised the way individuals in Asia acquire their daily necessities. As a result of the convenience offered by purchasing groceries from the comfort of one's own home, an increasing number of people are opting for online platforms to meet their grocery requirements.
When pit against the numbers from 2019, the grocery delivery market has expanded significantly and is now more than three times its previous size in the Asia-Pacific region. It is projected that this segment will achieve a value of US$325 billion within 2023.
This surge in demand has posed logistical challenges for retailers throughout the supply chain. Consequently, grocery warehouses are struggling to cope with the escalating volume of orders, resulting in delays and dissatisfied customers. Businesses must explore methods to optimise their grocery warehouses and cater to these newfound demands effectively.
Traditional Grocery Warehousing
To tackle the challenges posed by modern demands, it is important to understand the operations of traditional grocery warehouses. These warehouses are operated primarily through manual labour, heavily relying on human workers for tasks such as order picking, packing, and shipping. While this system has been effective for many years, it falls short when it comes to meeting the scale and speed expected in today's online grocery shopping landscape.
One huge issue is the significant amount of time spent by workers navigating through aisles in search of products and manually fulfilling orders—time that could be better to used fulfil more orders. Although this simple process can be easily implemented, its reliance on manual labour also makes it susceptible to errors that result in further delays and ultimately lead to customer dissatisfaction.
Due to the physical nature of this method involving human contractors within a limited space, there are limitations on how many orders can be fulfilled simultaneously. Online customers will then experience longer waiting times which often prompts them to turn towards competitors for their needs.
In addition, the conventional method of warehousing presents challenges in terms of inventory visibility. Maintaining accurate stock levels becomes difficult for retail stores, resulting in an increase in Out-of-Stocks.
The surge in online orders further exacerbates this issue, as warehouse employees struggle to keep up with stock checks and replenishment. Again, Out-of-Stocks have a detrimental impact on customer loyalty and provide a surefire way to drive consumers towards competitors.
As a result, adopting a wait-and-see approach is no longer viable in today's rapidly evolving digital economy. Consumers now expect nothing less than efficient, dependable, and high-quality service delivery. Retailers understand that to remain relevant and retain their competitive advantage, they must make investments in automation technology.
Automated aid in grocery logistics
An Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) refers to a mechanised system that stores and retrieves inventory or products. These systems have been developed as an alternative to traditional shelving and manual warehousing methods in grocery warehouses. This innovative solution employs robots to directly transport goods to workers, eliminating the need for manual labour.
According to Zebra Technologies, 27% of decision-makers currently employ goods-to-person solutions, with an estimated 90% planning on implementing them by 2027. The top three priorities for these decision-makers include reducing unnecessary tasks so that workers can focus more on customer-centric work, optimising the utilisation of seasonal labour, and addressing worker comfort.
The automated nature of ASRS liberates workers from less impactful aspects of warehousing such as physically traversing the warehouse during picking operations. Instead, it allows them to concentrate on tasks that require human intervention. Consequently, this not only benefits businesses but also enhances the quality of life for workers involved in these activities.
The ASRS offers immense flexibility, allowing for customisation to suit the specific needs of each customer. This is achieved through the incorporation of various components such as cube storage, robotics, carousels, and shuttles. To effectively manage all these elements and ensure seamless operation, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) is utilised.
When implementing an ASRS, several factors come into play. The size and weight of the products stored in the warehouse are crucial considerations. In the case of grocery warehousing, it is relatively straightforward to accommodate common household items and foodstuffs within the system. Additionally, aspects like storage structure design, physical automation capabilities, conveyance interface setup and control software integration are carefully evaluated.
By conducting a thorough analysis on these factors mentioned above specially tailored solutions can be developed to optimise efficiency in grocery warehousing operations. Based on this comprehensive understanding, the ASRS solution can be precisely customised according to unique requirements resulting in enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, and ultimately driving better outcomes for businesses operating in the grocery industry.
Combining Cube Storage with ASRS
Cube storage in warehousing generally comprises a grid structure that functions as the foundation of the automated systems in place. This grid holds storage bins and robots, which are responsible for navigating and transporting said bins that contain various products or stock items.
Storage efficiency-wise, cube storage outperforms other ASRS by effectively utilising available space. Unlike traditional shelving methods that result in empty spaces between items, cube storage eliminates this wastage by organising products based on their popularity. This means that the most sought-after items are strategically positioned at the top of the grid to ensure quicker retrieval times.
Cube storage offers a significant benefit in its modular structure, enabling effortless installation and expandability. Warehouses can enhance their storage capacity by up to fourfold within the same area through cube storage, surpassing traditional storage methods. This enhancement creates substantial value for grocery warehouses that embrace this design.
When comparing cube storage to conventional warehousing, it grants businesses up to four times more space for storing goods and services without increasing the footprint. Moreover, with technological advancements, ASRS empowers nearly all grocery warehouses to achieve automation.
ASRS and grocery warehousing
Implementing an ASRS in a grocery warehouse leads to significant advantages in meeting consumer needs. The modernised automated warehouse not only saves on labour, energy, and space but also greatly improves accuracy, productivity, and efficiency.
In the local context, NTUC FairPrice, Singapore's largest supermarket chain, recognised the importance of catering to fast online service demands. To achieve this goal, their subsidiary, Grocery Logistics of Singapore (GLS) decided to revamp their e-commerce platform and embrace a new approach to grocery warehousing by implementing an AutoStore ASRS.
The system, consisting of over 55 robots and 20,000 storage bins, has significantly enhanced GLS's operational capabilities where they can efficiently handle up to 3,000 daily orders. Compared to the previous form of traditional warehousing, order fulfilment at GLS has quadrupled.
Another notable benefit has been the reduction in physical strain for employees since they no longer need to cover long distances for tasks such as picking items or printing labels.
In a similar vein, industry leader Amazon is also exploring the potential of ASRS technology. They are currently conducting tests at their upcoming fully automated grocery warehouse located in the New York area. By leveraging automation, these e-commerce giants aim to streamline their operations and achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity.
Not Just for the Future
An ASRS provides an exceptional solution for grocery warehousing by optimising space usage, improving accuracy, and boosting productivity. These automated systems have transformed traditional warehousing practices, ensuring efficient operations and timely order fulfilment in the age of e-grocery shopping.
The combination of ASRS and cube storage is revolutionising grocery warehousing, allowing businesses to effectively tackle new challenges while enhancing space utilisation, order fulfilment, and employee well-being.
As the trend of online grocery shopping continues to grow each year, automation is no longer just a future solution but a necessity for adapting to the present demands.